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Authors: Charles Tang,Charles Tang

Mystery on the Train

BOOK: Mystery on the Train
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The Mystery on the Train
Illustrated by Charles Tang
ALBERT WHITMAN & Company, Chicago


1 A Special Surprise

2 Trouble on the Platform

3 Meeting Annie

4 Changing Trains

5 A Midnight Call for Help

6 The Platform Search

7 Shadowing Vincent

8 Good Friends

9 Recovered Property

10 Meeting Uncle Bob

About the Author

A Special Surprise

can’t wait until Aunt Jane gets here,” ten-year-old Violet Alden said. Violet and her younger brother Benny, who was six, waited by the window. They looked out onto the street for their grandfather’s car. He would be bringing Aunt Jane from the airport any minute now.

Aunt Jane was living in San Francisco for a few months so she could be with Uncle Andy, who had to be there on business. She had called a week ago and talked a long time with Grandfather. Then she asked to speak to each of the Alden children. But when she spoke to them, she said, “I won’t talk long now. I’m flying from San Francisco to Boston next week and I will see you then. I’ll visit you in Greenfield for two days. I have a very special surprise for you.”

Since that telephone call, the children had spent a lot of time trying to guess what the surprise would be. Now the special day was here and soon they’d know.

As they waited, twelve-year-old Jessie asked, “I wonder why Aunt Jane would fly all the way across the country to visit for just two days.”

“It must have something to do with the surprise,” Violet said.

“Maybe the surprise will be cookies,” Benny said. He rubbed his stomach. “Last time she brought some special chocolate chip cookies.”

“Are you hungry
?” Henry, who was fourteen, and the oldest of the children, asked. “You just finished lunch.”

Benny glanced at the clock in the hall and said, “Lunch was at noon. It’s two o’clock now.”

“I suppose two is the time for chocolate chip cookies,” Jessie teased.

time is time for chocolate chip cookies,” Benny answered.

Henry and Jessie smiled at their younger brother. Benny was always hungry.

Violet left the window and sat down at the table, where she picked up her colored pencils and began to draw. She said, “I am going to keep busy until they get here. That way, I won’t be so impatient.”

“I really am hungry now,” Benny said. “Let’s go see if Mrs. McGregor has anything in the kitchen.”

“There is an apple pie,” Jessie said, “but it’s for Aunt Jane’s visit. We can’t serve it until she gets here.”

“I wish she would hurry.” Benny sighed.

“Maybe you should find something to do,” Henry said. “You need something to take your mind off waiting. You could become an artist like Violet.”

The other children looked at Violet, who was working very hard on her drawing.

Benny went over to his sister and asked, “Is that Watch?”

“Yes,” Violet said. “I’ve got the tail and legs right but he moved so much that I couldn’t quite make his head look right.”

“I think it looks like Watch,” Jessie said.

“It looks like a dog all right,” Violet agreed. “But I’m not certain it looks like Watch.”

“Sure it does,” Benny said. “And you’ve put our old house in the picture.”

“Yes,” Violet said, “I like to draw our old boxcar. It’s easy because it has nice square corners and it never moves.”

At one time, after their parents had died, the Alden children lived alone in a boxcar. Then their grandfather found them and brought them home to Greenfield to live with him.

“Here they come!” Jessie said. “There’s Grandfather’s car.”

Violet and Benny rushed to the door. Jessie and Henry followed behind them. They watched as Aunt Jane and Grandfather got out of the car.

“She has just one suitcase,” Jessie said. “I guess she really is staying only two days.”

Aunt Jane hugged all four children. Then she stepped back and said, “Let me look at you. Yes, you are all growing taller.”

Aunt Jane hugged everyone again. They all went into the living room and Henry and Jessie served milk, tea, and pie. After a cup of tea, Aunt Jane said, “About that surprise I promised.” Her eyes twinkled.

“Is it here?” Benny asked.

“Yes,” Aunt Jane smiled and patted her purse. “In a way, you might say the surprise is here. On the other hand, you might say it’s in San Francisco.”

“What is it?” Benny asked.

“Can you guess?” Aunt Jane asked. “Your grandfather says you are very good detectives.”

“We are,” Violet said, “but we can’t guess how a surprise you brought us could be here and in San Francisco at the same time.”

“What is it?” Benny asked eagerly again. “We’ve been waiting all week.”

“You’ve been very patient,” Aunt Jane said. She smiled and opened her purse. “Now, children, here is the special surprise.”

Aunt Jane pulled out a brown envelope.

“I don’t think there is anything good to eat in that envelope,” Benny said.

Aunt Jane smiled at her youngest nephew and said, “You will like this surprise, Benny. And it includes good things to eat.”

“I can’t guess,” Benny said. “It’s a small envelope.”

Aunt Jane opened the envelope and showed them five brightly colored tickets. “These are train tickets. How would you children like to take a train trip with me to San Francisco?”

“Ooh,” the children said at the same time. Then they all began to ask questions at once.

“Are we going all the way to California on a train?” Jessie asked.


“Will we sleep in one of those little rooms?” Violet asked.

“Jessie and Violet will share a compartment and Henry and Benny will share another one. Your compartments are called double slumbercoaches. Each slumbercoach has two seats which change into beds at night. I’ll sleep in a roomette. It has a nice easy chair for reading and one bed at night.”

“Will we
be able to sleep in one of those little rooms?” Violet asked.

“Yes, you’ll fit just fine. And those little rooms are called compartments. They are quite comfortable,” Aunt Jane explained. “You’ll have your own toilet and sink in your room. There are showers right down the hall.”

“I’ve always wanted to see how they made those little beds,” Henry said.

“The beds are bigger than you think,” Aunt Jane said.

“Two beds in those small compartments.” Henry shook his head. “I don’t know how they do it.”

“The beds come down from the walls,” Aunt Jane said.

“Where will we eat?” Benny asked.

“In the dining car. It’s a restaurant with a cook and good food,” Aunt Jane said. “And there’s a club car which has a snack bar, too. You’ll find plenty of good things to eat.”

“Do I get the top bunk?” Benny asked.

“You can take turns.” Then Aunt Jane added, “I know you used to live in a boxcar. That’s why I was surprised when your grandfather mentioned the last time I was here that you’d never been on a train trip.”

“That’s right,” Henry said. “We lived all those months in a train that never moved.”

“Well, these trains move.” Aunt Jane laughed.

“It is a wonderful present,” Jessie said. “How long will the trip take?”

“We’ll cross the whole country in just three days and nights. We’re going to go all the way to the Pacific Ocean. That’s about three thousand miles. Then you’ll visit with Uncle Andy and me for a few days in San Francisco and you can fly home.”

Henry asked, “Will the train make stops?”

“Several,” Aunt Jane answered. “We actually will travel on two trains. One goes from Boston to Chicago and then we’ll change to a second train which takes us to San Francisco. I have a map,” Aunt Jane said. She pulled out a large map and put it on the table.

All the children watched as Aunt Jane traced her finger along the map. “We’ll travel through cities and farmland, through deserts and two ranges of mountains. This red line shows the route we’ll take. We leave Boston tomorrow night and when we wake up, we’ll be in Indiana. We have a two-hour stop in Chicago in between trains, so I’ll take you to a wonderful German restaurant I know.”

Aunt Jane smiled at Benny and brushed her hand across his hair. “Do you like German food? Knockwurst and sauerkraut? Apple strudel?”

Benny looked doubtful as he said, “I think so.”

“Aunt Jane?” Violet asked quietly. “Did you say we leave tomorrow?”

“Yes. Your grandfather will drive us to Boston and we’ll catch the train at exactly four-thirty.”

“Then we’d better start packing,” Violet said.

“Pack light,” Aunt Jane said. “Remember, those train compartments aren’t very large. You may each take one suitcase.”

“I’ll take all purple clothes,” Violet decided. “That way, everything will match. And I’ll have plenty of room for my colored pencils and sketching pad. Will there be pretty scenery?”

“Gorgeous,” Aunt Jane promised them. “There will be a lot to see.”

“Should I pack a lunch?” Benny asked.

“Don’t worry, the food is wonderful,” Aunt Jane promised him.

“Then I’ll only pack a box of crackers and a bag of cookies. Just for emergencies,” Benny said with a smile.

Trouble on the Platform

he next day, Grandfather drove them to the train station in Boston. The train station was very large and confusing. People rushed about in all directions and many announcements came over the loudspeakers at the same time. The Aldens stayed close to Aunt Jane as they walked through the crowded station.

Violet said, “I’ll bet there are people from all over the world in this train station. I didn’t know so many people took trains.”

“Yes,” Aunt Jane answered. “Some of them live in places where it is easier to take a train than to fly. Others don’t like to fly. Some people make train riding their hobby. They travel on every railroad in the United States at least once.”

“That sounds like a good hobby,” Benny said. “Maybe I’ll do that.”

“This is a long walk,” Violet said. “I’m glad my suitcase is small.”

“I’m getting tired, too,” Benny agreed. Then he looked at the sign on the platform. “Uh-oh! We have to go all the way back inside the station.”

“Did you forget something?” Aunt Jane asked.

“No,” Benny answered. “But the sign says Chicago. We’re going to San Francisco.”

trains in Chicago,” Aunt Jane reminded him. “This is the right train. The Lake Shore Limited. It’s a single-level train. In Chicago we change to a double-decker train called the
California Zephyr

Benny laughed. “I’m glad we’re in the right place. My suitcase is too heavy to go all the way back and try again.”

“Let’s wait right here until the conductor tells us we can board. These are the sleeping cars,” Aunt Jane said.

“How do you know?” Henry asked.

“See if you can guess,” Aunt Jane answered.

Henry studied the train for a few minutes and then he said, “These cars have smaller windows, don’t they?”

BOOK: Mystery on the Train
7.38Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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